R. LaBrant, II, Ph.D.
was born in Cuba on June 19, 1922. He was born in the little town
of Guanajay in what he calls "a small humble house situated
by the Capellanias River." He was the seventh of ten children.
His parents came from a very modest background and did not have
much formal education. His father was a farmer and also worked his
entire life with public transportation. His mother, at the age of
ten, lost her own mother. She had to leave school so she could cook
and care for her father and other siblings. Of his parents Arrastia
says; "Ambos fueron personas que no pasaron de un quinto grado
en la escuela primaria. Lo que no les dio la escuela se los dio
la iglesia." In spite of their humbe life he says that his
parents received much more from the church than a formal education
could have ever given them.
Arrastía's family moved when he was two years old to the
capital of Cuba, Havana. They were looking for a better way of life,
especially since they had ten children. It was there in Cuba that
his family was introduced to the Gospel. The family was, in his
words, "traditionally and nominally" Catholic. The family
was introduced to the Gospel after his mother's cousin went to Puerto
Rico. He attended the Puerto Rican Seminary in Mayagüez and
studied for the full time ministry. Arrastía says that Eduardo
brought the Gospel with him and shared it with his family and Arrastía's
parents gave their lives over to Christ: "en su expresión
Arrastía says his family always looked for a Presbyterian
church to join, and they did join one, la Primera Iglesia de la
Capital, when they arrived in Havanna. They later joined a closer
one called la Iglesia de Luyano in a barrio of Havanna. He says
that it was in this church that he made his profession of faith
and where years later he made the decision to give his life to Christian
ministry as his vocation.
This decision to enter the ministry is highlighted by an important
individual whose name is Reverend Primitivo Mario Acosta. Arrastía
mentions his influence in his book A pesar de todo
siendo amor. He says that this pastor used to visit his house and
that he told Arrastía that he would be a great minister.
Arrastía says that at the time his plans were to be an accountant
and work in an office as a bookkeeper. He decided against this profession
and started his studies for the baccalaureate in the seminary.
Arrastía did two years of study at the Instituto de Segunda
Ensenanza de la Vibora in La Habana and graduated in 1942. He says
that he left this college with the firm conviction that a preacher
should preach eloquently and that he should be a master of language,
of metaphors, have knowledge of secular literature, and use all
of these to make the Gospel acceptable and very contemporary. His
basic theological training took place at Seminario Evangelico de
Puerto Rico. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in Theology in
Arrastía was hired as pastor of la Iglesia Presbiteriana
in Sancti-Spritius, a traditionally Catholic city in south central
Cuba. He said that the membership in the church while he was there
increased from 125 members to 375 members. He and his wife left
this church at this point to go to Chicago to study for his Master's
degree in Theology at the McCormick seminary. The transformation
of the local church served as another seminary for him. It was during
this time that he took his first evangelical trip away from Cuba
and went to Columbia to the Iglesia Presbiteriana there. He was
there for three months during the religious persecution in that
Arrastía finished his studies in Chicago and received his
Master's degree in Theology. From Chicago, he and his wife returned
to Cuba to preach part-time at the Presbiterio de Cuba. He was at
the same time giving classes at the Theological Seminary at Matanzas,
Cuba. He recalls that this stage of his life was an intense time
of fixing the parameters of his future ministry which would include
evangelical preaching, seminary teaching, and working with students.
Through this church he was able to go to many countries for conferences.
Among the countries that he traveled to are Ghana, Greece, France,
Columbia, Mexico and Costa Rica.
After being a part of his church and having his own daily radio
show for a national station, he and his wife received an invitation
to work for the Evangelical Division of the World Council of Churches.
He says that political factors related to his opposition to the
Castro regime caused him to give up his position. While in New York,
Arrastía received a scholarship from the Rockefeller Foundation
for a year of study in the Union Seminary in New York, in a program
called Program for Advanced Religious Studies (PARS). After he finished
his year of study, the National Council of Churches, under their
Committee of Cooperation in Latin America, offered him a job as
editor of Hispanic material and to preach for the churches of Hispanic
America. This ministry allowed him to travel throughout all of the
Latin American countries and to preach in all of them.
After various years Arrastía was offered a job, through the
Presbyterian Church of New York City to organize an Hispanic Presbyterian
Church. He would use as his flock
the largest complex of multi-family housing in the United States,
Claremont Village. This village was home to 42,000 people, many
of whom were Spanish speaking. Of this new mission he says: "Esto
fue una quijotada: cambiar America como parroquia por cuatro manzanas
de edificios de 30 pisos, en una zona tan difícil que en
una película de Paul Newman rodada en ese territorio, se
le llamó Fuerte Apache." He says that this community
contained drugs, gangs, assaults in the streets and the homes, and
constant danger. He and his wife were there for 12 years. After
three years they had organized a church with 125 members. Today
he says that this church, San Andrés, is one of the most
active in the Bronx.
It was during this pastorate that Arrastía moderated the
Presbyteriate of New York, the first Hispanic elected to this position,
and he did his doctoral work at Princeton. He further worked part
of the time as Assessor for Hispanic Events with the Association
of Theological Schools in the United States. As a result of this
minstry, Hispanic programs were established at Fuller Seminary in
California and McCormick Seminary of Chicago.
Again, Arrastía changed locations for his ministry. The Seminary
of Puerto Rico invited hime to work as the Promotor of Finances
and Professor of Homilies and Adminstration of Churches. For three
years this was the ministry of Arrastía and his wife. In
1978, the Programs Agency of the Presbyterian Church offered them
a job as Advisor on Racial Issues and in the Development of New
Churches. They changed jobs within the same agency, for the office
of evangelization, as Editor of Resources and working with the program
Amanece una Nueva Era.
In 1987, he and his wife retired. In the midst of all of this action
he was able to write various books, articles and to participate
in evangelical conferences. He gives praise to his father, his mother,
his pastor (Rev. Primitivo Acosta), his wife who he considers his
partner, since he uses the first person plural we instead of I when
speaking of his ministry and work, and, of course, God. Arrastía
says: "En todo esto y en muchos casos más he visto la
mano de Dios sostiéndome y he oido su voz dando las órdenes
de marcha. Como Pablo, podría decir que Su potencia se ha
perfeccionado en mi flaqueza. Si algo hay de conquista, toda la
gloria pertenece a El."
Some of the many ministires that Arrastia was involved with are
the following: Continental Conferencista; Editor of Works in Spanish;
Head of the Committee of Cooperation in Latin America; Member of
the National Council of Churches in the United States; Pastor of
the San Andrés Presbyterian Church in the Bronx, N.Y.; Advisor
for Asuntos Hispanos; Member of the Association of Theological Schools
in the U.S.; Professor of Theological Seminaries of Matanzas, Cuba;
Professor at Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico; Adjunct Professor at McCormick
Seminary in Chicago; Rotating Preacher at the Cadena Oriental of
Cuba; President of the Cuban Council of Evangelical Churches; Moderator
of the Presbyterians of Cuba and New York (first Hispanic moderator
of the Presbyterian Church of New York); Founder and Editor of the
Magazine Diálogo in New York; Associate for the events of
racial justice and development of new churches; Member of the Program
Agency of the United Presbyterian Church; Associate for Resources
and Services; Associate for the Program of Evangelization; Professor
of the Seminario Católico Diocesano in Boynton Beach, Florida.
Among his books published are the following: Jesucristo, señor
del pánico; Diálogo desde una cruz; Itinerario de
la pasión; La predicación, el predicador y la iglesia;
Teoría y práctica de la predicación; Tentación
y misión; Tres problemas y una solunción (en prensa);
Pero Dios sigue siendo amor.
Some of the articles that Arrastia has published are the following:
"La iglesia: communidad hermeneútica; predicación
y misión: una tensión esencial"; "El sermón:
un rompecabezas"; Dinámicas de la cultura hispana";
"Predicación y consejería"; "¿Autoridad
para qué?"; "Texto y contexto"; "Liberación
y compromiso: la experiencia del exodo."
Arrastía has taught many courses in the seminary including:
Systematic Theology; Theology and Methods of Evangelization; Basic
Homily; Advance Homily; Worship; Worship and Preaching in the Hispanic
Context; The Hispanic American Novel and the Hispanic Preacher;
Ecclesiastical Administration; and Planning in the Local Church.
Finally, Arrastía has been a part of many preaching engagements,
conferences, and special events, for example: Speaker of the Presbyterian
Mission in Guatemala, Texas, and California; Speaker for the National
Convention of Evangelical Directors in San Diego, California; Preacher
at the General Assembly for the Untied Presbyterian Church in 1981;
Preacher of the Seven Words on the National Television of Cuba;
Guest Speaker at the schools of Universidades de San Marcos, Lima,
secondary schools in Lima, Bogotá, Barranquilla, San José,
Costa Rica; Inter Americana, San Germán, Puerto Rico; Workshops
about evangelization in Anchorage and Juneau, Alaska; Special Preaching
Engagements in Akropongo, Ghana, Africa, and Japan; Preaching in
all of the countries in Latin America and Spain; Trips to Europe,
Africa, Greece, the Holy Land, Egypt, Japan, and others.
R. LaBrant, II, Ph.D.
Department of Classical
Troy State University.
AL. United States.